Intel partners with startup on tools for app-level energy management

TSO Logic's software lets companies track how much power their individual server applications consume

Intel has partnered with startup TSO Logic in a move that should give more companies tools to track how much power their server applications consume.

The energy consumed by data centers has become a big concern for a lot of businesses, which face rising operating costs and pressure to cut carbon emissions. That's fuelled a growing market for software that can improve data center efficiency.

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TSO's software lets companies monitor how much energy individual applications are consuming, a key first step in managing costs. They can then use it to cap energy use by particular applications or to power servers down when they're not doing useful work.

That requires access to instrumentation data inside servers, however, and that's where the partnership with Intel comes in. Intel has an SDK (software development kit), developed with all the big server vendors, for accessing data about power usage, thermals and other variables.

TSO now has access to that SDK, allowing it to make its software work with a wide range of x86 servers, said Aaron Rallo, TSO's founder and CEO.

That's a big change from before, when TSO had to work with server vendors individually to get access to their data. For startups such as TSO, it can be hard to get big vendors to do joint engineering projects with them, let alone find the resources for those projects.

As a result, TSO's software currently works with only a handful of server models, including some blade systems from IBM and Hewlett-Packard, Rallo said.

As well as giving it access to more servers, the Intel partnership will let TSO learn about server management capabilities coming in the future, so it can get its software ready for them. For example, TSO expects server vendors to provide control over a wider range of components.

"Where we see more acceptance for the technology, it's coming with newer hardware that provides more control beyond 'on or off' and power capping. So I'll be able to control specific processors, or specific fans, or specific components of the [server]," Rallo said.

The Intel SDK isn't new; it was developed about five years ago and is used by nearly two dozen companies, said Ajay Garg, senior sales and marketing manager with Intel's data center management team. TSO says it goes further than those vendors by monitoring power use by applications instead of just servers.

TSO shipped its TSO Metrics and TSO Power Control products earlier this year. They're being used to manage about 5,000 customer servers, Rallo said. He expects to start rolling out support for additional server models in the first quarter next year, he said.

The software figures out how much work applications are doing by looking at data from elements such as network load balancers and VMware's vCenter management software. It pairs that with the server instrumentation data to show the cost of running applications in transactions per kilowatt hour, according to Rallo.

He said one customer, animation studio Arc Productions, is using TSO's software to manage 600 servers and has cut its electricity costs by US$100,000 a year, or 56 percent.

Tech-savy companies such as Google and Facebook have been managing their energy use closely for years, but other companies have been waking up to the need more recently.

"Three years ago I don't think many people cared about any of this, but as costs get higher and the number of devices increases, they care a lot more," Rallo said.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's email address is james_niccolai@idg.com.

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